Sharing the love: thank you, Exhale!

Friday, January 07, 2011

By Lisa Russ

Markai Durham, whose story is told on MTV's "No Easy Decision"
Reality TV may not change the world, but it can be a good way to notice that it is changing.

I sat down to watch the "No Easy Decision" episode of 16 and Pregnant this morning like just another part of my job.  I loved what Exhale had done to support the young women who told their abortion stories on the show, and I figured I should actually watch the episode so I could let Exhale know how much I appreciate their work.

Tea cup nearby, cell phone at the ready in case anything more interesting wanted to distract me, and my to do list looming by my elbow, I settled in with half an eye on the clock.  Four tissues and 30 minutes later, I feel like the world is a little bit different.

James giving Za'karia some love.
I was drawn in as Markai and James snuggle in bed, or she twists his hair, and they talk about their futures and their pasts (tissue), and struggle to make the best decision for their family.  Their daughter Za'karia is still a baby and they are doubtful about their ability to handle another baby (tissue). tears aside.  This is a huge step  forward for all of us.  Here's what I thought was rad and amazing about the show:
  1. Markai really feels a range of emotions about their decision to have an abortion, from anger to sadness to relief.
  2. She went to her trusted people to talk it through, and they all were there for her--including telling her it was her own decision and they would support her no matter what. 
  3. Markai and James had a very real-life conversation about the tangle of "clump of cells" "thing" or "baby" that was inside of her.  The fact that they each could see it as any one of those things in any moment was very real (and the kind of thinking that could end the so-called "abortion wars." 
  4. The show managed to show physical discomfort, sadness, and relief in a way that wasn't overly voyeuristic but gave a sense of the real range of feelings.
  5. Dr. Drew handled himself well! He gave good stats, and mostly good love (offering James condoms might have been a little over the top).

And that was all before we got to the other women, Katie and Natalia, who joined Markai on stage to talk about their experiences.  Here's what I loved about this part:
  1. Nuance! Ranges of feelings! Co-existing in each person! Sadness alongside a sense that they had each made the right decision for themselves.
  2. Difference of feelings, experience and choices were respected: Katie had people close in her life who had kept the baby (her sister  just had a baby at 18) and another friend had given up the baby for adoption.  She was able to respect those choices and say she knew they weren't right for her.
  3. They held hands!  As emotion moved through the three of them, they held hands in a very clear show of affection and solidarity.
  4. I loved when Katie said, "This is a parenting decision."  She said she DID acknowledge that it was a baby, to her, and that this was about finding the right way and time for her to become a parent.
  5. And Markai ended it with a message that could have come straight from the fabulous Exhale themselves: Don't hide behind close doors. Share your feelings.  It's okay to feel how you feel.

If you haven't yet, watch the episode, then Share the Love on Exhale's awesome site, set up to give our public support to Katie, Markai and Natalia.

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